Americans show concern about taking flu vaccine

Drug makers are promising a record supply - 160 million doses - of the 2010 seasonal flu vaccine, but Americans appear concerned about taking it.

The 2009 influenza pandemic pushed 45 percent of Americans to get the seasonal vaccine, up four percent from the year before, according to Consumer Reports. Fifteen percent of those that usually skip the vaccine were immunized, a five percent spike.

This year, only 37 percent of those polled said they would be getting vaccinated with the seasonal shot. The top reason respondents had for deciding to skip the vaccine is that they believed last year’s epidemic was overblown.

A recent look by Consumer Reports into data from last year’s flu season reflects this to some degree. There were, for example, only half as many deaths as during a regular flu season from 1976-2006.

Tim Uyeki, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says such statistics are not definitive.

"Looking at the numbers of deaths does not reflect the severity of this pandemic," Uyeki told Consumer Reports. "It had a disproportionate impact on younger adults.”

In most cases, about 90 percent of flu deaths occur in those over the age of 65. Last year, 87 percent of reported deaths were in those under the age of 65.

Government and media campaigns will publicize the risks of the flu with the hope of convincing more people to get vaccinated. More than half of those vaccinated last year cited the media as a factor.

Thirty percent of respondents reported that they would definitely not get vaccinated this year. Of those, 44 percent said that they were worried about side effects and 41 percent worried about the safety of the 2010 vaccine.